Chef Notes: Salt Potatoes

Chef Notes: Salt Potatoes

Don’t be put off by the title. Yes, you use a butt load of salt in the water but they don’t taste salty at all. In fact, you will still need to add salt to taste. None of the salt is absorbed by the potato. It’s all very scientific but basically the salt molecules form a barrier on the skin and the potatoes cook via steaming instead of boiling inside of the jacket. Your potatoes will not be water logged as the water cannot penetrate the skin. 

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I discovered this dish and method while living in Syracuse, New York where it originated out of the high salt production in that area in the early 1900’s. In fact, salt workers were

given part of their pay in the form of new/young potatoes and salt. The dish caught on and now you will see them at county fairs, carnivals, and clam bakes in upstate New York and beyond.

The appeal is that the potatoes have a wonderful creamy texture, similar to baked potatoes only creamier. Traditionally, they are served with a ton of butter and salt and pepper to taste.  I like to also stir in a handful of roughly chopped parsley, dill, or chives. The leftovers are terrific for potato salad, chowders, home fries, or mashed potatoes. The standard ratio is one pound of salt for every four pounds of potatoes but I’ve also seen it as one cup of salt for every six cups of water, the ratio I follow. I think as long as your close to either of those they will be fine. The important thing is to use non-iodized table salt or kosher and that your potatoes are similarly sized so they will cook evenly. I prefer white potatoes for this but you can certainly use your favorite. Oh, one more tip, do not cut off any bad spots or eyes on the potatoes and don’t use any that have obvious gouges or tears in the skin. The skins must be intact to prevent the absorption of the salt.

Here’s my recipe:

5 lbs white potatoes, skins on
Kosher salt
1 ½ sticks melted butter (or to your own taste)
½ c roughly chopped parsley, dill or chives (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

Method
In a very large stock pot, add potatoes and cover by an inch or so with cold water. Use a quart measuring cup to add the water so that you’ll know how much salt to add. Add one cup of salt for every six cups of water.  I would recommend rounding up if it doesn’t come out even. Remember, you’re only forming the salt barrier around the potato, they will not be salty. Place the covered pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a healthy simmer. Cook until a skewer will easily slide through the center of the largest potato. Remove from water and place in your serving dish. Allow to cool slightly. You’ll notice that the skins kind of shrivel a bit and turn an ashy gray. In the meantime, melt your butter with some salt and pepper. Stir in your fresh herbs. Grab a knife and quickly cut your potatoes in halves or quarters, depending on their size. Fold in your butter and herb mixture. Taste and adjust your seasoning. Serve hot.Pay attention to the difference in texture.  I just think it’s the bomb.

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2 Comments

  1. Randy
    March 22, 16:01 Reply

    I love the salt potatoes you get with lobster at many of the outdoor seafood places in New England. I had wonder why they were called salt potatoes scone they do not taste salty. Thanks

  2. Randy
    March 22, 16:02 Reply

    BTW love the heart shaped potato pic.

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